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Don’t drink and sneeze! Study says a cold impairs driving abilities

Coughing, sore throat, sneezing, congestion, dizziness and overall fatigue—they are the classic signs of a cold or flu. These unpleasant symptoms often mean we miss out on work and social activities while we recuperate our strength.

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Coughing, sore throat, sneezing, congestion, dizziness and overall fatigue—they are the classic signs of a cold or flu. These unpleasant symptoms often mean we miss out on work and social activities while we recuperate our strength. 

But recent studies by experts in the UK (via Marie Claire), suggests that a bout of the cold or flu should also keep drivers at home in bed and off busy streets and highways. 

According to research by Cardiff University’s Common Cold Unit in Cardiff, Wales, sickness seriously affects motorists’ driving abilities, making them more likely to make errors that could result in accidents. 

The negative impact of virus-related impairment is nothing to sneeze at. The research study found that cold or flu reduces drivers’ reaction time by 50 percent. Drivers who were sick with a virus were also found to be 33 percent more likely to hit the curb than those who were in good health. 

Another study, conducted by a UK insurance company, found that a driver’s decrease in situational awareness due to illness resulted in an increase in sudden braking and erratic, wide turns. 

For that study, performed by the insurance company Young Marmalade, researchers recorded drivers’ speed, braking and cornering using a telematic box. Sick drivers saw a marked decrease in their alertness and driving skills, going from an excellent rating of 95 percent when they were healthy to 60 percent.   

The insurance company study went so far as to compare the effects of driving with a cold to driving under the influence of alcohol, arguing driving while sick is equivalent to drinking four double whiskeys. 

The findings have some authorities, from police to health care professionals, warning people to stay off the roads when sick.